Jane Goodall wrote a letter to the director of the Cincinnati Zoo where a 17-year-old gorilla was killed after a 3-year-old boy got into its enclosure over the weekend.
The Jane Goodall Institute shared an email Goodall, one of the world’s most well-known primatologists, sent to Thane Maynard following the fatal shooting of the endangered 17-year-old lowland gorilla named Harambe.
In the note, Goodall writes that she feels “so sorry for you, having to try to defend something which you may well disapprove of.”
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Zoo staffers shot and killed the 400-pound Harambe Saturday after determining the boy's life was in danger. Maynard has defended the zoo’s actions, saying using tranquilizers on the gorilla would not have knocked the animal out right away, leaving the boy in danger. He added that Harambe was agitated by the commotion from the crowd and was extremely powerful, capable of crushing a coconut in one hand.
Goodall briefly attempts to evaluate the situation based on video taken by witnesses at the zoo.
“I tried to see exactly what was happening – it looked as though the gorilla was putting an arm round the child – like the female who rescued and returned the child from the Chicago exhibit,” she wrote in the email.
The reference appears to be to a 1996 incident, where a small boy climbed a railing and fell 18 feet into the gorilla den at the Brookfield Zoo.
In that incident, an 8-year-old female gorilla named Binti Jua made national headlines when she picked up the unconscious boy and protected him from the other primates. The act of kindness came as a surprise to many of the guests who said they feared Binti Jua would maul the 3-year-old.
Maynard said Tuesday the zoo had received an outpouring of support from colleagues and the Cincinnati Zoo remains safe for its 1.6 million annual visitors. He noted, however, that a review is underway to determine whether any improvements can be made.
Police also said Tuesday they are investigating the parents of the boy.
The incident has triggered a furor online, with some saying the boy's mother should be charged with child endangering, while others want the zoo held responsible for the animal's death.
Goodall noted that the death is “a devastating loss to the zoo, and to the gorillas.”
She ends the note with, “feeling for you [Thane].”
The Jane Goodall Institute has declined to comment further on the incident.